Parents to see child benefit docked for unpaid truancy fines

Kids playing truant on a wall

Parents who are fined because their children have played truant will face a cut in their child benefit if they fail to pay the fine on time, the government has announced.

David Cameron said his cabinet is to introduce a civil penalty of up to £120 that will be taken from child benefit if a fine is not paid within the current limit of 28 days.

Parents are currently fined £60, which doubles to £120 if the fine is not paid within 21 days. After 28 days parents can be prosecuted for the unpaid fine, but many councils do not bother pursuing parents through the courts.

Figures indicate that around 40% of fines for truancy go unpaid each year, or roughly 20,000.

"All the evidence is that if children consistently miss school, they get a worse education, they get worse results and as a result they have less good prospects for the rest of their lives," he told BBC Breakfast.

"So this is about making sure our children get the great future and the great start in life that they need."

According to government rules, you must make sure your child gets a full-time education that meets their needs, whether you send your child to school or educate them yourself.

Children must get an education between the school term after their 5th birthday and the last Friday in June in the school year they turn 16.

In September 2013 the law was changed to state that parents could no longer take children out of school during term time for a holiday except under “exceptional circumstances”. This has led to a steep rise in fines.

Local councils and schools can also issue a ‘parenting order’, an ‘education supervision order’, or a ‘school attendance order’. 

A parenting order requires parents to go to parenting classes; an education supervision order will see a supervisor appointed to help get children to school; while a school attendance order requires parents to send their child to a specific school.

Cameron added: “Ensuring children get the best start in life is at the heart of our plans. We want to help hardworking parents with their childcare plans, so we will give families the right to request that their schools provide childcare for a full working day, before and after school and during the school holidays.”

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